Making Meaning Matter

The Evergreen State College

Author: Austin R.

Blue Rabbit Iteration #4 – Austin Roberts


Rotation: |

How the different objects were arranged for printing.

How the objects were arranged and oriented for printing.


Material Use: About 8g (0.02lb)

Print Time: About 45 minutes

117 layers


  • x- 51.6mm
  • y- 35.91mm
  • x- 22.51mm

I didn’t start out this project with an idea of what specifically I was going to print.  MY idea only calls for an object that is meaningful to me.  On Monday of week 8 I was exploring in TinkerCad and decided to see what would happen if I used the cookie cutter technique we used to make the french table leg, but with words instead of the shape of the table leg.  What this produced were objects that on one side show a letter, and have a different letter on a different side.  The result of this experiment is my final printed object.  Almost immediately after creating these letter object some of my classmates came over and asked me what I made and how I made it.  This accidental creation received awesome reactions that day, but the conversation I has with Katie about it stands out to me.  Katie was so excited about my discover and all of its possibilities.  I was struggling to decide what to print, but when I thought of my conversation with Katie, I felt good.  I realized that these letters fit the needs for my project perfectly.  These letters have no obvious use or purpose, but are meaningful to me.  Of course, in my conversation with Katie she suggested that I could turn these letters into a word puzzle, giving them a use.  I have discovered though that it would be impossible to create a useless object, at least for the purpose of this project.  If I create something to use for my project, it is useful.  When I think of my letters, I feel good.  They have meaning to me.  Another aspect I had been thinking about was trying to create an object that is meaningful to only me.  I think this might be impossible as well, unless only I know of the object.

At first once I had settled on this idea, I thought I would print a set of letters that spelled my name from one side, but all had the letter A on the other.  This turned out to not be as easy as I thought because one of the letter combinations seems to be impossible to print on a Makerbot without supports, at least working with the limitations of Tinkercad.  This wasn’t a problem for very long because I quickly decided to instead print a set of letters that from one side reads my first name, and from the other side my last name.  The only problem I ran into with this design was that my last name is one letter longer than my first name, so I had to add my middle initial to the end of my first name to make it even.  From there, I only had to turn some of the letter combos on their sides or upside down to ensure proper printing.



Rotation: |

How the different objects were arranged for printing.

How the different objects were arranged and oriented for printing.

Material Use: About 8g (0.02lb)

Print Time: About 45 minutes

117 layers


  • x: 51.6mm
  • y: 35.91mm
  • x: 22.51mm


Austin’s Week 8 CST

“So  how’d he get Disneyland built” (Doctorow 308)

“He quit.” (Doctorow 308)

On Monday, using the cookie cutter technique we used to make the french table leg, I accidentally created something that received some interest from my classmates. In particular, Katie was very excited about it.   It was amazing to see how something I did on accident could have such a positive effect on someone.  At first, I thought my little discovery was kind of cool, but after I spoke with Katie I was excited.  It is amazing how something so unintentional can be taken to another level by an outside interest.


From one side you see “A”, and “U” from the other.


Blue Rabbit #3 – Austin Roberts

Is anything meaningless?  Who decides if an object is meaningless?  Who controls which objects are created?  If an idea is meaningful to only one person, is it worth actualizing?  Is it possible for an object to have meaning to only one person?

No tchotchkes allowed in the CAL.

No tchotchkes allowed in the CAL

Metal dog toy

Metal dog thing. Sculpture? Toy? Ornament? Piece of trash that I shouldn’t have bought?












1 2 3

"Photo Essay explaining the strong bonds between me and my plaster assignment"

“Photo Essay explaining the strong bonds between me and my plaster assignment” (ladiesintheclub)


You can't see what's meaningful to me.

You can’t see what’s meaningful to me.

This was a little too functional.

This was a little too functional.

"Meaningless object nº1 that relates to meaningless object nº2"

“Meaningless object nº1 that relates to meaningless object nº2″ (Trindade)

"Meaningless object nº2 that relates to meaningless object nº1"

“Meaningless object nº2 that relates to meaningless object nº1″ (Trindade)

A golden chicken that one emoji loves but the other one thinks its stupid.

A golden chicken that one emoji loves but the other one thinks is stupid.

This research really opened my eyes to the connection my idea has with art.  I was aware of how art related before, but now I feel a need to think more about it.

I also think I have moved away from trying to create an object that is absolutely only meaningful to myself.  Through my research I have started to think that it is impossible.  Seeing images labeled “meaningless” made me feel something.  Does that give them meaning?



ladiesintheclub. “Photo Essay explaining the strong bonds between me and my plaster assignment” Photographs. JUSTINE//REYES.  Web. November 17, 2014

Trindade, André. 14 Sculpture-objects. Digital image. 1.5 – Meaningless Acts for Meaningless Objects. N.p., 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

GOLD CHICKEN PLAIN. Digital image. – GOODS. Tank., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

Austin’s Week 7 CST

“Would you like a comment card?” (Doctorow 265)

“No.” (Doctorow 265)

It was interesting to have a different experience in the 3D/CST lab this week.  Experiencing Zev being scanned into a digital form was cool, and some of the discussions that resulted were even cooler.  The hostile tone of the conversation on the politics of scanning a body really shocked me.  I completely did not understand some of the points that were being made and I was very confused.  The two sides of the conversation seemed to be pretty gendered.  I’m curious to explore more how gender is involved in this digital 3D world, as we know it is from the Google searches of “3D man” and “3D woman.”

Austin’s Week 6 CST

“I’m going to order some food.  What do you feel like?” (Doctorow 199) “Whatever you get, you’ll have to get it from one of the fatkins places.  It’s not practical to feed Lester any other way.” (Doctorow 199) This week I was thinking about how I have been feeling about the things I make in Tinkercad.  I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as good about making something, I wasn’t getting the good feeling that is described in the Maker Movement Manifesto.  I think that this might come from a feeling of assembling in Tinkercad, not actually creating.  I feel like I’m just putting pre-made shapes together.  None of the other students I talked to shared this feeling.  This brings up the question of what does it mean to make something?  What is the difference between putting something together on Tinkercad and downloading it from Thingiverse?

Austin’s Blue Rabbit #2

My idea is to 3D print a tchotchke.  I consider a tchotchke to be an object that is perceived as meaningless, pointless, or useless.  For all intents and purposes in this paper, tchotchkes, trinkets, and knick knacks are the same things.  Originally I had planned to print one object for myself, and one object as a gift.  My plans have changed to only include printing an object for myself.  I feel that printing an object as a gift is unnecessary for forming my idea.  I have already printed a tchotchke and I learned a few things in the process of making it.  I am very interested in printing an object that has meaning only to me.  On this first tchotchke I included little images from different things that I like.  I included a letter A for my name, the Black Lodge emblem from Twin Peaks, the Pokémon Jigglypuff, a kodama(as represented in the film Princess Mononoke), and the nails emoji.  I was originally satisfied with this design, and I still am, but I think going further with this idea I would like to create an object that has meaning only to me.  Four out of the five images come from places in pop culture, and a lot of people are consumers of pop culture.  The other image is just the letter ‘A’ which could apply to almost anyone in some way.  Thinking about this, I wonder how to create something that only has meaning to me.  Another thing I noticed when showing my design to people is that they would often try to assign a function to the object and make it useful.  While it was extremely interesting to see how others saw how my object could be used, I want to create something that’s only function is bearing meaning.  I think that these objects are worth existing even if they have meaning only to one person, and if they are essentially functionless.  A functionless object is almost impossible though, I think.  I consider an object functional if it has any effect at all.  Even just looking at something can make a person think or feel something.

"5 people like this topic"

“5 people like this topic”

The thing about trinkets is that people just like them.  If we didn’t, we wouldn’t need a sign telling us they are forbidden from printing.  In scientific studies trinkets are used as reinforcements for children who display positive behaviors.  “Our preliminary work, therefore, was concerned with evaluating types of reinforcements (appearance of a toy, candy, balls, pleasant sounding tones, trinkets, etc.), various kinds of responses (push buttons and lights, peg boards and lights, pump handles, dropping a ball in a hole, etc.), and ways of setting up experimental procedures.”  (Bijou 162)  Here we see trinkets being used in the same situation as toys and candy.  Toys and candy are undoubtedly positive things that are well liked by most people.  If we like something, isn’t it worth creating?  I think inspiring happiness is a worthy function of an object.

This idea is a controversial one.  The question “What is worth printing in a world that is already full of stuff?” has a heavy environmental theme to it.  Eleanor K. Sommer of is definitely one who is worried about the environmental impact of 3D printing.  As she learned about 3D printing for the first time, she questioned the impact of the plasticity of 3D printing.  “Pulling myself back from warp speed, though, I became disturbed. This wunderkind appliance had implications I could not even imagine.  The substance must be powdered plastic, I decided as I watched. I cringed at the thought of household desktop “printers” adding to the mountains of plastic waste in the world. More useless stuff.  I was wrong. At least about Z Corp. Titlow told me the material is a special kind of powder and contains gypsum.  Z Corporation uses “eco-friendly, non-hazardous” building material and produces “zero liquid waste,” he said and the company tries to be eco-friendly in other ways, such as replacing plastic drums with cardboard ones for shipping the powdered materials to clients.” (Sommer)  She seems to have concluded that 3D printing is eco-friendly and that’s that.  Later in her article though, she questions 3D printing altogether.  “My fear is the proliferation of plastic trinkets in a world already inundated with plastic waste. Health concerns are implicit in every stage of plastic production: manufacturing, use, and disposal.  Do we really need the convenience of downloading a program (or scanning an object) to print more synthetic stuff?” (Sommer)  Here Sommer specifically states her fear of plastic trinkets.  She equates trinkets with waste.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  I wonder why trinkets would still be considered bad if they are made of an environmentally friendly material.

"Does anyone know an online website that i can buy pointless stuff or knickknacks from?"

“Does anyone know an online website that i can buy pointless stuff or knickknacks from?”

“It’s a myth that museum shops are stuffed with overpriced, humdrum tchotchkes.  Case in point: Nico, the $8.95 barista action figure now brewing at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, is the perfect gift for any latte lover. Read her story on the back of the box — Nico’s beans are always freshly ground, she never tamps the filter basket too tight, and her foam is perfect. This Seattle transplant/ex-Peace Corps worker is moody and curt, but her joe is the best.”  (Erlichman)  We think of museum gift shops as places that sell “overprices, humdrum tchotchkes.”  While it seems that Erlichman believes that the word “tchotchkes” has a negative connotation, I don’t think it has to be viewed that way.  It would be completely easy to view this barista action figure as a worthless object, void of meaning.  However, there is something about the items in this gift shop that isn’t immediately recognizable.  “Museum shops tend to scare people off, says Leslie Dungee, director of the art museum’s gift shop.  ‘But it sure beats the mall.’  Think marble staircases instead of fluorescent-lighted food courts. And hand-picked items, with a purpose.  ‘Our products are designed by women, purchased from a woman-owned company, or relate to the work of women artists,’ says Lynda Marks, director of retail and wholesale operations at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.” (Erlichman)  The fact that all of the items in the gift shop are designed by women, purchased from a woman-owned company, or relate to the work of women artists is incredibly meaningful.  This aspect is not obvious, but is still important and valid.  This meaning might not have been intended at the creation of the object, but assigned later in its life.  I begin to question how it will be possible to create an object that only has meaning for me.

I think I might need to abandon the idea that my object will be functionless and have meaning only to me.  In fact I am almost sure that it will have a function aside from bearing meaning for me.  If I am presenting this to the class, my object will probably inspire thought in some, which I consider to be a function.  I also think that if an object is inspiring thought, it is very likely to be assigned meaning by someone who is thinking about it.  I need to figure out how I will design my tchotchke with this in mind.  Is it worth trying to make it only meaningful to me if it will probably be assigned meaning by someone else?  Is it worth trying to make functionless if it will undoubtedly have a function?

Work Cited

Bijou, Sidney W. “A Systematic Approach to an Experimental Analysis of Young Children.” Child Development 26.3 (1955): 161–168. Web.

N.A. “SHOPPER.” Washington Post, The n. pag. Web.

Adler, Anthony Curtis. “The Abject Life of Things.” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 17.1 (2012): 115–130. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

“Will 3D Printing Transform The World — Or Just Fill It With Non-Biodegradable Personalized Junk? | Techdirt.” Techdirt. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

Terry, Beth. “3-D Printing: Inspiring Creativity or Just Proliferating More Plastic Crap?” My Plastic-free Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

“Does Anyone Know an Online Website That I Can Buy Pointless Stuff or Knickknacks from? – Yahoo Answers.” N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

“Pointless Knick Knacks.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

N.A. “SHOPPER.” Washington Post, The n. pag. Web.

Austin’s Week 5 CST

“You want to encourage this?”

“Don’t you?”

This week I spoke with Chrissy about how we need to go through the CAL staff to actually 3D print something.  While I understand why such measures are in place, this is a little bit frustrating.  One of Chrissy’s frustrations came from the fact that we aren’t really getting any experience with one of the biggest steps in 3D printing.  It seems strange for us to have no interface with the printer.  Each step removed from the process takes away from the feeling of actually creating what we are printing.

Week 4 CST

“Look, I just want to write about this in a way that honors what you’ve done over the past two years.  I’ve never been present at the birth of anything remotely this important.  It deserves to be described well.” (Doctorow 114)

“You’ve been amazing, Suzanne.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  No one could have described it better.  Great deeds are irrelevant if no one knows about them or remembers them.” (Doctorow 114)

Suzanne questioning how to properly write about things, and Kettlewell’s response makes me wonder what “great deeds” could be going undiscovered in the CAL.  I make my way around the room and the most interesting things I hear are not about people’s work.  Why am I more interested in critiques of Tinkercad and how we are able to use it?  Perhaps I need to pay attention to the things that don’t grab my attention.  Could I be missing something similarly to how Suzanne missed Kodacell failing?

Iteration #1: Week 4; Seemingly Meaningless Objects

What determines if an object is meaningful?


My idea is to 3D print a tchotchke.  I was first inspired by the sign in the Computer Applications Lab above the 3D printers that reads “No Tchotchkes.”  Following this rule, I am not able to print most of the things that I really want to.  I question why we aren’t allowed to 3D print tchotchkes.  Does anything exist that is actually pointless, meaningless, valueless, and functionless?  I don’t think so.  I believe everything has some sort of meaning or value, regardless of how apparent it might be.

One thing about tchotchkes or trinkets is that one rarely buys them for oneself.  They are usually given or received as gifts.  When anything is given as a gift, it is automatically assigned meaning.  When I was 6 years old, I was given a Starbucks temporary tattoo by a relative who was visiting from across the country.  This was the first time I had ever met this relative, and I haven’t seen them since.  I thought they were the coolest person in the world, and I held on to that tattoo for as long as I could.  My dad asked me if I was going to put the tattoo on, and when I told him I wasn’t, he wanted me to throw it away, but I didn’t want to.  I didn’t care at all about what the tattoo meant to anyone else, or what its intended use was.  I didn’t drink coffee, I had no special affinity for temporary tattoos.  What mattered to me was that someone had been thoughtful enough to give it to me.  I don’t even remember the name of my relative or how I am even related to them now.  I would say that at this point, the idea of that temporary Starbucks tattoo means more to me than that relative does.  I don’t think that a giver even has to put a lot of thought, if any at all, into a gift for it to have a ton of meaning.  The children I work with will give me their artwork, and I highly suspect that a lot of these gifts come from a loss of interest in the activity and the need to get rid of the mess left behind.  This doesn’t make the art mean any less to me though.  One child gave me an empty envelope and I still hung it up on my wall.  That being said, a gift has the potential to have a great amount of intended meaning that might not be known to anyone but the giver and receiver of the gift.

There is also great meaning in objects that one can make for themselves.  We know a lot about making from reading the Maker Movement Manifesto, and how it just feels good to make things.  If you make something, I think that automatically assigns meaning to whatever it is that you make.  Even if the object turns out nothing like you wanted it to, it still means something that you made it.  When I was younger I attempted to make a cereal bowl that looked like a turtle out of clay.  It turned out totally non-functional and vaguely turtle-like.  Even though it’s pretty ugly, I have still kept it all this time.  Just because I made it.  Also possible with creating something for yourself is intentionally making something that has meaning embedded in the design of the object, whether apparent to all, or just the creator.

I intend to to print two objects, one to gift, and one to keep for myself.  I don’t have any ideas of what these objects might be, look like, or mean at this point, but I don’t intend for the meaning to be apparent.  They will have meaning.

Meaning in an object might not be apparent to more than one person.  I think this idea is important because even if an object is only impacting one single person, I think it is still worthwhile for this object to exist.

I was unable to find material on the meaning of seemingly pointless items, but I did find that there has been some movement against tchotchkes in the professional world.  There have been moves in the pharmaceutical industry to ban tchotchkes as a form of marketing. (Iskowitz; Pharmaguy, That’s Snot Funny!)  This brings up an interesting point that tchotchkes can serve a very blunt purpose by being used by companies to “offer clients an effective and efficient way to build loyalty to their brands.” (Pharmaguy, May Ban Tchotchkes)

I think this is worth studying for this quarter because exploring how and why objects hold meaning could be very useful.  Discovering and sharing how meaning can apply to one might change perspectives on we view seemingly meaningless objects.  Perhaps I will be able to use my learning to get the “No Tchotchkes” sign removed.


Works Cited

Iskowitz, Mark. “U-Pittsburgh Med Center Weighs Tchotchke Ban.” – Medical Marketing & Media. Medical Marketing & Media, 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Pharmaguy. “Pharma Marketing Blog: Duluth Bans Tchotchkes — That’s Snot Funny!” Pharma Marketing Blog: Duluth Bans Tchotchkes — That’s Snot Funny! Pharma Marketing Network, 8 Jan. 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Pharmaguy. “Pharma Marketing Blog: EU Pharma Industry May Ban “Tchotchkes” Outright! Tchotchke Makers Threaten to Sue.” Pharma Marketing Blog: EU Pharma Industry May Ban “Tchotchkes” Outright! Tchotchke Makers Threaten to Sue. Pharma Marketing Network, 9 July 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.